Making the Most of Exit Interviews for Employees

Mar 28 2024 | Insights
Three people sat in a meeting room at a large desk, going through the exit process for employees.

Exit interviews can often be overlooked within a business. But, in doing so, companies can lose out on valuable insights and tools to improve.

What are exit interviews?

Exit interviews are final interviews with employees who are departing the company. In these interviews, typically employees will be asked questions such as, ‘Why are you leaving’, ‘What impressions of the company have you been left with’, ‘What do you think works well?’, ‘What do you think could be improved upon?’.

These interviews are often held with a line manager and/or HR, and they can be really important to understanding how a business can improve processes or keep up things that are working. They’re a useful source of information for business performance! Which is why making the most of them is so vital.

The importance of exit interviews

Exit interviews can provide additional information about the state of your business from departing employees. They can give open and honest reviews about their time at the company, including areas to improve on and areas that they thought worked well. This can give you vital insight that you might not be able to get as openly with current employees who feel they may not be able to speak as freely (although encouraging an open and honest communicative culture is key).

Some of the benefits exit interviews can provide include:

1. Revealing issues regarding the structure or the culture of your business

With departing employees, there is less worry sharing concerns or complaints about particular company issues that they see, because there isn’t any worry about it now affecting their career. This way, exit interviews are clear cut ways of identifying potential problems, whether that be with leadership and management, growth and development, workplace culture, diversity within the organisation and so on.

2. Maintaining a good employer reputation

If you, as a business, miss the opportunity to provide final support and thanks to departing employees, you’re not leaving a good lasting impression. By conducting exit interviews, you, as an employer, give yourself the opportunity to have an open dialogue about any issues they raise, as well as conveying appreciation for the work that they’ve done for your company. Leaving a good impression with departing employees is also valuable to assist with encouraging them to refer candidates for your future open roles.

Exit interview advice & tips

There are certainly some dos and don’ts to exit interviews which we’ve identified for businesses to uphold.

Do: Make exit interviews a formal policy. That way, departing employees are prepared, and are more likely to bring constructive feedback that they already have in mind.

Don’t: Require every leaver to participate. In some cases, an exit interview might not be productive, or an employee might not want to participate which would also make the process unproductive. Don’t force exit interviews but make them a formal process that is the ‘norm’.

Do: Ask open-ended questions. This way, employees are more likely to open up and say how they feel.

Don’t: Provide unconstructive feedback to employees who are departing. Any feedback should be constructive, allowing employees to openly engage in dialogue about the feedback, and use it to their advantage moving forward.

Do: Listen and take notes on employee feedback. This is the main benefit of conducting interviews, so make sure you’re using the information wisely, and show the willingness to improve.

Don’t: Dwell on specific incidents or give your own opinions. The interview should mainly be used to provide support and find any pain points. Refrain from giving your own opinions, they won’t be useful and may actually lead to employees refraining from sharing useful information. So, try and stay neutral.

Do: Stress confidentiality. Whilst sharing some feedback can be useful, always ask before doing so. Stressing confidentiality can also allow employees to feel freer to share their views, perhaps about specific management for example, without feeling like their comments will come back to haunt them.

Don’t: Include third parties, or other individuals who don’t need to be involved in the process. This can, again, reduce the amount of useful information that is provided in an exit interview.

Do: Reflect and act. While some may not be actionable right away, and others might only be insights to think about, don’t let the valuable learnings go to waste. Implement the changes or improvements that you can so current employees can benefit, leading to growth and higher retention rates.

Don’t: File and forget it. If you receive actionable insights and nothing changes after employees leave, not only might current employees develop a negative impression, but you’re missing out on a chance for company growth. The exit process for employees is an opportunity to see things from a different perspective and leverage it to improve business performance!

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